As my close friends and yes, even my coworkers know, one of the happiest moments of my life was when I traveled last August to Pittsburgh, PA to be on Antiques Roadshow. I get questions all the time like, “How did you get a ticket?” or “Did you hit the mother load?” or “Did you hang with the Keno brothers?” In celebration of the 16th season, I thought I would recap my experience, shed some light some misconceptions and inform anyone else who is lucky enough to attend the show in the near future.
How Do I Get A Ticket?
You cannot buy a ticket. Your mother cannot buy a ticket for you. You cannot buy a ticket to the show from your uncle’s boss’s nephew. All tickets are FREE (yes, I said FREE unless your local PBS station is selling tickets in return for donations – which is rare) and are part of a drawing. Each spring, the Antiques Roadshow reveals the 6 cities that will be part of their upcoming tour. All you have to do is simply register for the city you’d like to win tickets to (however all food and travel accommodations are up to you to plan and pay for).
The closest city on the 2011 tour for me was Pittsburg, PA. I registered…and then begged and bribed my coworkers and friends to register for me as well. A few months later, my husband’s best friend was selected and the filming date was the day after my birthday…IT WAS MEANT TO BE!
I can only relate the feeling of winning two tickets to the show to the 1971 movie classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Remember the famous scene where Charlie opens his chocolate Wonka bar wrapper to find one of the five Golden Tickets? Yeah…it was kind of like that…times twenty.
Grab your treasures. Pack your bags. Make hotel reservations. Warm up the GPS. It’s time for a road trip! But wait! Make sure that you and your bestest treasure-seeking friend bring along two items each in order to get in the door (a requirement that I didn’t know about until I read the back of the ticket). And make your hotel accommodations early. All the other lucky fools who got tickets as well will be rushing to that town like California miners during the gold rush of 1848 and you don’t want to be without a close and comfy place to stay!
Another key factor that will be on your ticket is your time. That’s right…you didn’t actually think you’d get to just go and hang out with Ken Farmer or David Rago all day did you? The gates open at 8 or 9am, and each time slot is designated for each hour. Our tickets were for 11am, though my hubby and I were amped up like kids on Christmas morning, so we got there an hour earlier.
What Really Went Down?
Jon and I drove to the Pittsburgh convention center from Washington, PA (where we stayed at a lovely B&B 20 minutes away), parked the car, grabbed our tickets, our camera and our treasures and headed to the very, very, very long line in the waiting room. This is like purgatory. You snake around in a very long line with the hundreds of other folks who are clasping their treasures as closely to their persons as possible, hoping that their objects will offer them early retirement. Let me remind you of how happy I was at this point in time (see photo for visual depiction of maximum happiness). I thought I was going to bro-down with my fellow pickers, Saturday morning yard-sale-ers, shop hoppers and collectors. To my disappointment, there wasn’t much bonding or bragging happening. People were looking around, quiet, contained and waiting. Not to mention that Jon and I were some of the younger enthusiasts attending. I did see an old guy who looked like Santa, sporting googly-eyed glasses pushing along some early American folk art in a baby stroller and that was pretty uplifting.
After 45 minutes of snaking in this very long line, we arrived at the gates. There were 6 tables where folks would sort and inspect your goods and give you a ticket for a category. We had three objects (two prints and one oil painting) and so we received two category tickets for “Prints & Posters” and “Paintings & Drawings.” Once we got our category tickets, we got to pass through the gates and go into antiquing heaven.
Ready For Your Close-Up?
The show is filming when you walk in. The set is set up in a ring shape, made up of sections. The outer walls are where the appraisers have their consultation tables set up. The inside of the ring is where the cameras are usually filming three high dollar appraisals at a time. If you’re really lucky and have some killer goods, you can make it to the middle and get on camera. So where were we? My hubby and I were with the others, waiting in another set of long lines to get to the appraisal tables, outside of the ring. Looking around at others who were in the category lines, I was not very impressed with the antiques that I saw. Most of the items seemed like the common finds you score at any local antique store. However, there was one woman in front of us, in the “Paintings” line, who had what she believed to be a Cartier cigarette case stashed in her sock that she picked up an estate sale for $10.
After waiting in another line for about an hour, we met with Alasdair Nichol of Freeman Auctions. He reviewed a small oil painting that we had that was signed and dated from 1901. It was craftsman in style but after some poking around on his laptop, Mr. Nichol could not find any information about the artist. He put a rough estimate of $100 on it, which was fine by me since I only paid $40 for it in a small second hand shop.
After meeting with Mr. Nichol, we met with Nicholas Lowry. As we waited patiently for him to finish talking to the high school news reporter who was in line in front of us, I could feel my heart racing and my palms sweating. As a professional graphic designer, illustrator and art director, prints and posters are one of my favorite collectibles to drool over. Not to mention that I think Mr. Lowry has one of the coolest jobs on the planet, working for Swann Auction Galleries. And don’t forget the guys’ vintage three-pieced suits he wears on the show. Simply fabulous!
I won’t bore you with the dorky details, but one item we had that we thought was worth a million dollars was a fake (just like 90% of the other attendees at the show). Then I showed him a print of a Dutch girl with a windmill by Paul Berthon, dated 1901. I found the print falling out of a broken frame in a second hand shop for maybe $10. I fell in love with it and had it reframed in a period correct oak frame. Mr. Lowry thought it was as spectacular as I did and offered us a plethora of information that I didn’t know about the print. It was a very rare miniature art nouveau fine art poster that could only be purchased at the time of creation in a print shop or high end furniture store. It also had gold leafing, which he felt was unusual and gave it an auction value of $400!
And with a blink of an eye it was over. It all happened so fast. You can’t just linger around and hang out on the set while they are filming. Once you get your items appraised, that’s it. Time to go home.
To my disappointment, I didn’t get to talk folk art with Ken Farmer or dork out over early American highboys with the Kenos or hug Mark Walberg. As we were walking to the famous Feedback Booth, I went rogue and cut a woman off to get an autograph from David Rago and his wife, Suzanne Perrault. I read their magazine Style 1900, so come hell or high water…I was gonna meet them!
The Best Part
Feedback booth. The line to gripe about how we didn’t strike it rich was a blast. People were fun, friendly and were willing to share their treasures and tales with you. These were my kind of people! After hearing some pretty funny stories, it was our turn for some camera time. We got a couple of minutes to hold up our goodies and tell our tales of woe and a few laughs.
On the way out of the convention center we scored some free Subaru sponsored swag (reusable bags and mini flashlights), took some photos by the Roadshow signage (since we couldn’t take any photos inside the show) and chatted with some fellow fans.
So stay tuned! Keep your eyes peeled to your local PBS station in January or February of 2012! You just might get to see Jon and me in the Feedback Booth, looking exhausted and holding our valuable and not-so valuable treasures!
Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.